Category Archives: History

How Much and What Types of Alcohol Did Americans Drink In The 19th Century?

19th Century Americans Loved Wine and Liquor, But Their Favorite Alcoholic Beverage Was Beer

Throughout much of the 19th century there were countless temperance movements in the United States to stop “the evils of drinking.”

I just bought a copy of The Liquor Problem in All Ages by Daniel Dorchester (1884). It’s a fascinating look at the history of alcohol. About half of the book covers the efforts to curb or eliminate alcohol consumption. The other half is an engaging history of the manufacture and use of alcohol throughout history across different cultures from all over the world.

One very interesting chart shows which alcoholic beverages Americans were consuming decade by decade from 1792 – 1882 and it is reproduced below (click to enlarge):

In the 1790s American distilled spirits (whiskey, gin, rye, bourbon, etc.) was the most consumed alcoholic liquor. Over 65 million gallons of the hard stuff was consumed by Americans.

As the U.S. population grew and the 1800’s progressed, we see a steady rise in the consumption of American distilled spirits.

American wine, foreign wine and foreign distilled spirits consumption are proportionately increased to some degree from 1792 – 1882.

The rise of malt liquor (in this context the book is referring to beer) consumption explodes in the 1850s nearly matching American spirit consumption. From 1860-1870 beer doubled its popularity from the previous decade. From 1870-1882 beer consumption had reached over 4 billion gallons, more than four times all other alcohol types combined. Continue reading

Historic List Of Every Hotel In New York In 1882

In 1882 A Visitor To New York City Could Stay At Frankenstein’s –

A Complete List of Every (Reputable) Hotel In New York City In 1882

And How They Were Advertised

A few years ago we published a list of every hotel in Manhattan in 1964. That list has proven to be useful for many people.

So we decided to go all the way back to 1882 and provide a list of all the hotels in New York City. According to Phillips’ Business Directory for New York City 1881-1882, there were a total of 165 reputable hotels.

Looking over the list you may notice the street with the most hotels is Broadway. West Street with 26 hotels, was second in number. This is because of the many ships docking along the Hudson. Ritzy Fifth Avenue had only 14 hotels.

There are many sole proprietor hotels and some with names  you would not use today for a hotel, like Frankenstein’s Hotel located at 413 Broome Street and Crooks Hotel at 84 Chatham.

One hotel, Goodiwin’s, was located on 13th Avenue, which ran for about a mile alongside the Hudson River waterfront from just below Bank Street up to 26th Street.

The most famous hotels such as Astor House, Fifth Avenue Hotel and Hoffman House, are all gone. So it may come as no surprise, but not one New York City hotel from this 1882 list is still in business.

However a few of the buildings that once were hotels in 1882 remain.

The Hotel St. Stephen was incorporated into the Hotel Albert on East 11the Street. Its original facade vanished in the 1920s and The Albert is now a co-op residential building.

Gilsey House (built 1867) still exists at its original location on Broadway and 29th Street was converted into apartments. The Saint Denis Hotel was drastically altered many years ago and was converted into offices.

A key to the list: , c= corner of; prop= proprietor

Aberdeen, 917 B’way
Aberle Jacob, 145 8th
Albemarle, 1101 B’way
Albion, 133 8th
Anchor Line, 124 West
Anson House, 79 Spring
Anthony, 834 B’way
Ashland House, 315 4th av
Astor House, (Allen & Dam), 225 B’way. On the European plan
Atlantic Hotel, John Gerken, prop., 63 New Bowery
Baar Fred., 228 & 275 West & 164 South
Beauce Edward, 87 Clinton pl
Becker, F. W., 103 Bleecker
Continue reading

The Last Two Of The Dionne Quintuplets Want To Keep Their Family Home Where It Is

The Remaining Dionne Quintuplets, Once The Most Famous Siblings in the World, Want To Keep Their Childhood Home In The Small Canadian Town Where They Grew Up

“Hark The Herald Angles Sing” The Dionne Quintupplets, who have shown marked aptitude for music, delighted in singing Christmas carols with their nurses. They sang in French, of course, for their education in English has not begun. The girls have “singing class” daily. They listen to phonograph records as they lie in bed for the 15-minute rest periods preceding mid-day and evening meals. Front: Annette (l), Emelie. Rear (l to r) : Marie, Cecile, Yvonne. photo: Acme December 26, 1939

The two remaining Dionne Quintuplets have kept a low profile in recent years, but they have come out of their solitude to try and save their childhood home from being moved.

Forget the Kardashians, in comparison to the Dionne’s they would rank obscure. If you are under the age of 50 there is an excellent chance you have never heard of the Dionne quintuplets. But during the 1930s until the early 1940s they were known to everyone, being the most famous siblings in the world.

(UPDATE 4-5-17 – North Bay City Council Reverses Decision To Move Home…For Now)

They were incredibly cute and adorable. And everything they did was photographed, filmed, broadcast and written about.

The identical Dionne sisters were the first known quintuplets to survive infancy. The quintuplets were born May 28, 1934 in a remote village farmhouse in the area of North Bay, near Callendar, Ontario, Canada to poor, uneducated parents Oliva-Edouard and Elzire Dionne. The Dionne’s had five children previously to the quintuplets birth. Continue reading

This Man Was The Last Living Veteran of The Civil War (Or So He Claimed)

Confederate Civil War Veteran Walter Williams in 1954 At Age 111

Austin, TEX – March 28, – Sports Race Fans: 111-year-old confederate veteran Walter Williams and his wife, sprightly 84-year-old Ella Mae, were paraded past the stands today at the National Sports Car Races at Bergstrom Air Force base. He flew here from his home in East Texas but Mrs. Williams decided she would come by auto. Williams was made honorary commander for the day (AP Wirephoto) 1954

111-years-old?

When Walter Williams died on December 19, 1959 at the reported age of 117, he was the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Now if you have doubts that Walter Williams was really 117-years-old when he died, you are not alone. Scripps-Howard reporter Lowell Bridwell had his doubts and investigated Williams’ claim.

in September of 1959, Bridwell reported he could not find a shred of evidence corroborating Williams’ service or his age.  On the contrary, Bridwell found evidence that Williams was younger than he said. Bridwell discovered there were no records at the National Archives showing that Williams had served in the Confederate Army. But In Williams home state of Mississippi, their war archives listed a Walter Washington Williams as serving in the army a a private.

Walter Williams said he had used several different middle initials when he was younger.

Williams claimed that he was born in 1842. The 1860 U.S. census shows that Williams was age 5 in 1860 meaning he was born in November 1854.

If Williams had joined the army at the end of the war in 1864-1865 he would have been nine-years-old. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #73 – Jefferson Market Courthouse

Jefferson Market Courthouse, Greenwich Village – 1885

An 1897 book, The Greater New York Guide Book, Manhattan Historic and Artistic by Cynthia M. Westover Alden described the Jefferson Market Courthouse quite simply as “an irregular but unique and handsome structure, built of red brick and sandstone, in the Italian Gothic style.”

In 1885 at 9:25 in the morning according to the clock in its tower, James R. Osgood photographed the Jefferson Market Courthouse for American Architect and Building News.

Since originally being published, this crisp and clear photo has remained unseen for over 130 years.

This view looking southwest is one that has changed in 130 years. but would still be recognizable to any resident of Greenwich Village today. The courthouse still stands on its irregular plot of land at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street and is the pride of Village residents.

When completed in 1877 by architect Frederick Clarke Withers, the Jefferson Market Courthouse was the epitome of stylish Victorian design. As can be seen in the photograph, surrounding the courthouse along 9th Street, Greenwich Avenue and part of 10th Street was the original Jefferson Market, which began functioning in 1832. The group of buildings housed butchers, fish peddlers and produce dealers. Over the years however, the market became home to a magistrate’s court, a women’s court and a series of cells to temporarily hold women prisoners.

The Jefferson Market was demolished in 1929 for a building that would become the Women’s House of Detention. While excavating on the site for the prison, the workers hit upon the Old Minetta Creek. A 25 foot diameter space quickly filled with 10 feet of water and several pumps were needed to drain the site. Continue reading

10 Things About New York in 1892 That You Didn’t Know

From An 1892 Guidebook – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About New York

14th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in 1892 photo: KIng’s Handbook of New York

Some of these facts are pretty interesting:

The New York Post Office handled over 600,000,000 pieces of mail matter annually. That may not be so amazing. What is amazing is that they had an annual profit of $3 million dollars!

Trinity Church is part of Trinity Parish. The Parish was the richest in America. Income from its real estate and other holdings amounted to over $500,000 annually

It was free to walk over the 9-year-old Brooklyn Bridge. Vehicles had to pay a toll of 3 cents each way.

At Centre and Franklin Streets stood the City Prison, better known as The Tombs, because of the architectural resemblance to Egyptian tombs. Before the death by electrocution law went into effect in 1889, all condemned murderers sentenced to death by the New York courts were executed in the Tombs. Continue reading

Car Advertisements From 1903

How Cars Were Advertised in 1903

While researching last week’s story about the 1904 record 6 1/2 hour automobile drive from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, there were numerous advertisements that caught my eye in Motor World Magazine.

America’s passion for cars dates back over 120 years. How they were advertised in 1903 is fascinating to see.

What manufacturers choose to highlight in their offerings are sometimes very practical features, other ads feature the bizarre.

You will recognize only a few brands that survived the auto industry’s infant years. Most of these automobile names were eliminated from the market so quickly that many people living at the turn-of-the-century would not have known them.

Take a close look at this Northern Mfg. Co. car. There is no steering wheel. The car was steered by a tiller.

And you thought electric cars were new? Many companies had electric cars back in 1903 including Studebaker. The company touts that “no expert chauffeur is needed,” and is, “a successful hill climber” with its “perfect spring suspension” and “reliable brake control.”

Studebaker started as a wagonmaker in the 19th century and produced its last automobile in 1966.

Haynes – Apperson had a 12 horsepower Phaeton that apparently won some car races. Would that influence a potential buyer?

Packard produced this car marketed for “Physicians and Others.” With room for five people, this Packard would set you back $2,500. To give you some perspective $2,500 was about half the price of a new, modest three bedroom home. The Packard Motor Car Co. produced its last automobile in 1962.

The Autocar is a “Harmonious Whole.” Autocar is still in business and is run by the GVW Group LLC.

Conrad Motor Carriage Co. had a car for every price range, from $750 – $1,250. The $1,250 model got you three speeds sliding gear transmission with 12 horsepower.

I love the name of this car – The Chainless Cudell. One of the few cars advertised that had a roof! Continue reading

Democracy – Same Problems, Different Eras

A 1920 Essay From Dr. Frank Crane About Democracy and Indifference

The United States is more polarized than it has ever been.

Very few Americans are feeling indifferent about our democracy these days. Americans have strong feelings one way or another about many issues. Yet many people feel powerless to affect the way our democracy operates. The question many are asking is, “is democracy dead?”

We have two political parties who generally do not represent the best interests of the people. Instead they stick along party lines on all issues. What makes this charade even more distressing is that our “representatives” are bought and paid for by corporations, PACs and lobbyists. Distracted by partisan politics, Americans become complacent and indifferent to the underlying problem – corruption. This is not a new phenomenon.

Dr. Frank Crane (1861 – 1928) was a Presbyterian minister, well known across the country as a columnist, author and lecturer about positive everyday living and home grown wisdom. He wrote this essay, Democracy and Indifference in 1920.

While the specifics of graft and corruption have changed since 1920, the fundamentals have not. We still have a government that answers first to corporations, trusts and grafters.

Dr. Crane’s short essay is worth repeating (punctuation and capitalization as originally printed):

Democracy and Indifference

The suicide of Democracy is indifference. The trouble with the USA is not too much politics, but not enough.

A Monarchy or a Government by Trusts by Bosses or by Grafters will work itself because there is a class whose self interest keeps them on the job It is their bread and butter. Also jam. Continue reading

In 1904 The Drive Time From Los Angeles to Santa Barbara Was 6½ Hours

6 ½ Hours From L.A. to Santa Barbara (And That’s With No Traffic!)

What has four cylinders, 24 horsepower, weighs 2300 pounds and gets you from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara in just under 6 ½ hours?

A 1904 Peerless automobile. Future millionaire Norman W. Church took out this ad for Peerless in the Sunday, June 5, 1904 Los Angeles Times.

For a trip that today can take three hours with moderate traffic, 6 ½ hours in 1904 is a miracle. The “roads” in 1904 were in a primitive state to say the least. Rural roads were frequently  dirt paths filled with rocks and sand. Many times you’d have to drive through a field to get from place to place. Paved roads in California were a rarity, usually found in cities.

The interesting thing about the ad is that the Peerless will make the trip “without a single mechanical adjustment.”  That indeed was a rarity as automobiles were constantly being tinkered with. You had to be your own mechanic or bring one with you, as breakdowns were frequent.

You may be wondering if the Los Angeles to Santa Barbara trip took six and a half hours, how quickly in the early 1900s could you  drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco? Continue reading

New York Hot Dogs In 1858

Before the Invention of the Frankfurter, Two New Yorker’s Come Up With Their Own Version of the Hot Dog

In 1906 the Pure Food and Drugs Act was passed by Congress prohibiting interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Living in 19th century New York you never knew where your meat might be coming from. Food, especially meat, was often processed in unsanitary conditions. Of course then, as even now, you might not even know what type of food you are actually eating.

This appetizing tidbit is from the January 22, 1858 New York Times: Continue reading